Tour Manager’s Guide: Iceland

Tm Guide Iceland
Hi. My name is
Danny. I’ve been touring with bands for some time and want to tell you about some of the places we’ve been. I know, I’m missing some important things from these cities but this is just what I’ve had time to see. If you have suggestions regarding where to go in your beloved hometown the next time I’m hurtling through in a van filled with drunk people, please let me know. And then you follow me here you go here now!!!!


FUN FACTS ABOUT ICELAND

FUN FACT #1: They Believe in Elves.

Over 33% of the population believes in Hudufolk, or Elves. The belief in them is so strong that constructions projects routed around Elf lands. Sometimes if people are going to build a house or building on Elf land and it has to be there, they will have a holy man go make sure it is ok with the Elves. This is true.

Fun Fact #2: Christmas involves a black panther.

The Christmas cat plays a large part in the Icelandic Christmas experience. Legend says that if you do not receive an article of clothing a large black cat drags you out of the house and kills you. You read that correctly. If nobody gives you a piece of clothing a black panther drags you out of your hut and murders you. Don’t even get me started on their Yuletide lads because this shit would never end.

Fun Fact #3: They need to chill on the cousin f#cking.

The Book of Icelanders in an app that helps people in Iceland avoid banging relatives. You might say to yourself, “Come on, that’s overkill. I hook up with people all the time and never check to see if they’re my cousin.” Fair, but you probably don’t live on a 40,000 square foot island home to less than 400,000 people. I believe this app works or they’ve got some bulletproof genes because my initial observation of the Icelandic people consisted of sincere admiration; they are HOT.

Certain tiny islands, I’m not gonna name names, but certain small islands that happen to be 850 miles east of Iceland and the seat of the British of the empire can look a little wonky. A tad big eared. A little, I’ve been sleeping with my cousins for 3,000 yearsish. Icelandic people look different, but hot different. They have beautiful platinum blonde hair and large light blue, almond shaped eyes. I don’t discriminate. Man, woman, it’s all good news. From the moment I stepped on Icelandair at JFK to the moment I landed back at JFK I was in love. It seemed like every five minutes in the capital Reykjavik I’d see the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen and then be like, “annnnd that’s a dude.”

We went to Airwaves

Airwaves

Iceland was the first foreign country I visited on tour. On a dreary September afternoon I was sitting at my office in the east village when I received an email with an offer for the band I managed to play the Iceland Airwaves festival in Beijing, China. Jkjkjkjkjk. It was the musical equivalent to getting an invitation to Willy Wonkas Chocolate factory, as Airwaves is quite exclusive.

In mid October we departed. Whenever Iceland enters a conversation people bring up two things, The Mighty Ducks 2 and the fact that it’s warmer than Greenland. Someone will go, “You know, Iceland is actually green, and Greenland is the one covered in Ice.” Yes, it is warmer than Greenland but it’s not exactly Death Valley. This was 2010 and I’d recently discovered Zara so I was super Euro trashed out and not dressed for the weather. My pants were too tight, I had some dumb leather jacket on, and there were zippers everywhere. It was a disaster. Take a large jacket if it’s fall or winter.

Moving on.

Iceland is perfect for any tour manager’s first foreign excursion because it’s foreign enough to feel exciting but small enough to easily navigate. When our bus from Keflavik International Airport, a facility that resembles a discarded set piece from the Labrynth, drove into Reykjavik I was confused. In the U.S if you say capital there’s gonna be a big ass dome and some police cars, probably some flags; none of that here. Iceland’s capital Reykjavik is home to 120,000 people and sits on the water at the southwestern most point of the country. It resembles a cozy model city designed by Thomas Kinkade at a JC Penny Christmas display. And much like a Kinkade painting the cozy little fishing village sits at the base of sinister looking mountains that loom above the unforgiving north Atlantic that surrounds the city.

Customs at Keflavik International Airport
Customs at Keflavik International Airport

Back to the music

Airwaves takes place in numerous venues across downtown Reykjavik. It’s more like SXSW or Britain’s, Great Escape than ACL or Redding. It feels like a tasteful advertisement for the country.

Iceland used to be a poor fishing village in the north Atlantic. Like most countries at one point (1991) they were like, “hey this whole Wall Street thing sounds pretty sweet lets put all of our money into that” And they did. They made a shitload of money and modernized the country. Then… like everyone else in 2008 it all came to an ass grinding halt. Iceland though is a nation borne out of hardship. Its resources are scarce, it looks like the moon, the sun reveals itself 4 hours a day in winter and they are some resilient god damn people. They eat fermented shark for gods sake.

So they came up with a plan to rebrand the country and bring in some much-needed foreign scrilla.

This is why out of nowhere it was like, “we interrupt your normal subway ad about plastic surgery to talk about Ye Old Famous Icelandic Vodka.” And you were like, “Icelandic Vodka?” And the ad was like, “Uh… yeah! It’s been around for (mumbles) just have some Buy it!” Or Icelandic Chocolate. And if you swear by Odin that you’ve been eating Icelandic Chocolate since before 2008 you are a filthy liar.

But Danny, what does this have to do with Rock n Roll?! Nothing really I just find it interesting. But it does mean there are fantastic travel specials and events because they want people to come to the island. For example, if you take Iceland Air from NYC to mainland Europe you can stop over in Iceland for a day free of charge. 

The secret has been out for a while in New York but I strongly encourage everyone else to take advantage of the fact that you can fly to a foreign place with lots to do in under 6 hours.

Detailed Map of Iceland by Daniel Carissimi
Detailed Map of Iceland by Daniel Carissimi

I can’t remember the name of the venue we played in Reykjavik. I believe it was called “Venue”… What I do remember is that the audience was excited. I’m a firm believer that shows on islands are the best shows on the planet, and I mean that figuratively and literally. Fans in London, NYC, Berlin, LA, are like, “we’ve seen Nas before blah blah blah.” But kids in Reykjavik are like, “AHSKSFSDFLKJSJ!!!!!” Which is also how you say Nas in Icelandic.

Our set was followed by an Icelandic rap group performance. I wish I remembered their name but people kept telling me that they were “so famous”. So like 50 people knew about these dudes. From what I gathered, rappers in Iceland initially wrote lyrics in English but there was a second wave that wrote lyrics in Icelandic. Watching Icelandic men in muscle shirts rapping was epic. To give you some context the word for grocery in this country is matvöruverslun. Go ahead freestyle, I dare you.

Driving

For its size Iceland has a robust music scene. Obviously Bjork and Sigur Ros headline their cultural exports but there were good bands all over the festival. Iceland seems to have that Manchester, or Seattle vibe of like, “welp it’s gonna be dark and freezing for the next 15 months lets write songs!” And they do.

Ya gonna get some food.

Prior to arriving I Googled, “what to eat in Iceland.” I learned that Iceland is the only Western OECD (rich western countries) to still serve whale meat… tight. We can all agree that hunting whale is a despicable practice that must be stopped immediately… but don’t you kinda wanna know how it tastes? I heard an unconfirmed story that Iceland’s whale hunters depart from the same dock as the whale sighting tours. While you and your loved ones are looking forward and waving at Shamu, Iceland’s cold hearted whale hunters are behind you sticking dynamite in Shamu’s mouth. What I’m trying to say is that if you have been whale watching in Iceland you are complicit in the deaths of thousands of whales and baby seals. And baby otters whose parents adorably hold hands when they float.

My meager list of restaurants ended up being like half the restaurants in Reykjavik; it’s a small place. I walked over to a restaurant called Saegreifinn. It’s located in a baby blue shack on a dock and the interior looks the way a Red Lobster wants to look.

Whale hunters in Iceland
Whale hunters in Iceland

Three things spiked my interest. One, there was whale meat served on a skewer. It tastes like every upper middle class dad’s dream, steak on the outside, and raw tuna on the inside. Because I’m a creep, I started staring at other people and noticed they were eating something that resembled chicken on a skewer. It was puffin. Not the puffy rice cereal that fills all its victims with endless farts, but Puffin, the national bird of Iceland / hack Penguin. Given Iceland’s lack of trees and isolated location birds are in short supply. So when it came time to elect a national bird Icelanders were stuck between the oceans rat of the sky, the seagull, or a little half assed penguin called a puffin (Lundi in Icelandic). It was an easy choice.

Eating puffin in Reykjavik is like walking into a Washington DC tavern and ordering skewers of bald eagle. Puffin was tasty and somehow eating a country’s national bird authenticated the experience. Saegreifinn’s star of the menu though is Norwegian lobster bisque also referred to as Humarsupa, or Langoustine soup? Yes, there we go Norwegian Lobster bisque. If you think I’m unaware of how douchey it is to write, “You must try the Norwegian Lobster Bisque in Reykjavik”, I’m aware.

If you are thirsty for poison you can try brennevin also referred to as the Black Death. I bought the cheapest one I could find at the airport and it came in what looked like a Cool Mint Listerine bottle. There was no name, just a black label with a white outline of Iceland in the middle. If you are curious about how this beverage tastes and cannot find brennevin at the local Albertson’s grocery store, do the following:

Ingredients

1 part Swedish aquavit

1 part Listerine mouthwash

1 x butthole

Mix together aquavit and Listerine, serve out of butthole.

That’s about as close as it gets.

The Hot Dog

On my way back to the hotel I stopped at a hot dog stand called Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur AKA the most famous hot dog stand in the world. It is owned by a jovial 60ish Icelandic woman named Guðrún Kristmundsdóttir (easy enough). She’s not shy. In fact one day resident DJ best guy Bill motha fuckin Clinton was walking by on his way to crush some p#ssy at a UNICEF conference and she yelled, “Best hot dogs in town!” And because Bill Clinton is a champion he said, “I’ll have to try one.” BOO YA!!!! Except Bill didn’t take it the Icelandic way, which is ketchup, mustard, fried and raw onion, pylsusinnep, and remoulade. If you don’t know what half of those things are, neither did I, and neither did Bill. Except I’m more adventurous than Bill and got it all the way, he only got it with mustard. I wasn’t that hungry but when I saw a photo of Commander and Squeeze gettin his hot dog on I knew it was god given right to get one. I don’t say this lightly because there are a lot of great hot dogs in this world, but that is the best fucking hot dog you will ever have, or has ever existed. The secret is that it’s grass fed, hormone free, lamb.

Lamb

After a hectic night out I arrived at my hotel as they were serving the complimentary breakfast. Northern Europe’s standard hotel breakfast favorites like ham, butter, and mini baguettes were present as was a container of fermented shark. Not one to run from a challenge I ate a few pieces.

The taste? Well, where to begin…

I understand resources on this island are scarce and that Vikings needed a way to preserve seafood through brutal winters but those days are long gone and we can all agree it’s time to through this shit back into the ocean with some dynamite. No stars!

Sheep’s head is also popular but I didn’t have time.

I was enthusiastic about a carbonated beverage I found at a rest stop called Malt Applesin. It’s traditionally a Christmas drink and a combination of an orange soda called Applesin, and another mysterious substance called Malt Exktract. I’ve heard it’s lightly alcoholic and that there is no alcohol. Not sure. It’s like a sweet orangey Guinness.

I know there is a lot more to but these are the must haves.

NEVER ENDING STORY CHURCH

When you are done with your Norwegian lobster bisque walk to the center of town to check out the Hallgrimskirkja. It’s an impressive Lutheran church that also looks like it was taken straight out of Labrynth. It is a wide structure that slopes on both sides to a tall round top and is supposed to resemble basalt lava flows. I think it looks more like a giant Viking organ. It does not resemble any architecture I’ve seen outside the Never Ending Story.

Never Ending Story Castle
Never Ending Story Castle

Not sure if I should admit this but I took the elevator up to the roof without paying and looked at Reykjavik. If there is a warrant out for my arrest in Iceland turn me in at once. A jail cell in any part of Scandinavia is surely better than my bedroom in East Los Angeles.

After that go to see an almost more Never Ending Story monument, the sun voyager. See below. Yes. The SUN VOYAGER. I climbed on it. Again if the Icelandic police are after me, I’m dtf. Like dude these people believe in Elves and there is a Sun Voyager… whatever that is! I don’t know but I love it!

Epic Viking Space Boat Danny climbed on
Epic Viking Space Boat Danny climbed on

Trip Guide. Day off.

If you have the time take Iceland’s ring road around the whole island and see some glaciers. If you do not, Iceland’s most accessible tourist attraction outside Reykjavik is the golden triangle. It consists of three things you complete in a day but I add in the Blue Lagoon. If you go and do not visit all four of these things you deserve Thor’s hammer to your nutsack.

Golden Triangle. Guide.

First thing ya gotta do is rent a car. Tourist busses do go from the city to all these places but fuck that, rent a car. We ended up with a busted red VW looking bus but she did the job. Your goal is to hit:

  1. The Blue Lagoon.
  2. Pingvellir National Park
  3. Geysir’s at Haukadalsvegur
  4. Gulfoss Falls
  5. Listen to Bjork’s “Hyper Ballad” many times.
Danny and a friend or Huldufolk wearing Zara
Danny and a friend or Huldufolk wearing Zara

We started the day with a few of my beloved hot dogs and drove 40 minutes south to the blue lagoon. Go on a weekday when it’s not as busy and avoid Airwaves if you want a more relaxed experience. Inside you are given a bracelet that’s attached to your credit card. If you’re a male and short on swimming supplies you’re issued simple black trunks and a blue towel.

Outside the lagoon is a wonderland. The water comes from a geothermal plant nearby and is a solid 102 Fahrenheit. You’re required to shower before entering and its steamy blue waters only add to Iceland’s fairy wonderland quality. Around the pool are attendants carrying buckets of jizzy white silica mud to throw on your face. Supposedly it’s good for exfoliating and minerals and other good skin stuff. It was freezing out and I went straight under water and that’s dumb because when you come up, ya know, it freezes.

There is a bar in the middle that serves alcohol. They have something called Lagoon Juice. It’s sparkly. That’s all I could deduce.

After the Blue Lagoon we drove an hour and ten to Pingvellir national park. It’s a jagged and mysterious looking place vacant of anything except herds of ponies and sheep. YES YOU HEARD ME. HERDS OF PONIES ROAM FREE. If you are huldufolk skeptic #1 I think the landscape of Pingvellir will change your mind. Look at the below photo. Do you not at least kind of see the Elf vibe?

Elf Vibe

We continued on to the Geysir’s at Haukadalsvegur. It’s a standard Geyser experience. Water booms like a cannon into the sky out of the ground and it’s a miracle of nature and blah blah blah.

We continued to one of the more impressive things I’ve ever seen, Gulfoss Falls. When you walk to the waterfall there are a bunch of do not cross rails to prevent you from falling to your death. Because I’m rock and roll I climbed over them and got as close to the water as possible. It’s exceptional. On the ride home I think you can go see the Icelandic northern lights but we missed them.

There is so much more I want to write about this magical place but Battlebots is on and my girlfriend is making dinner.

BTW

Had I kept my original seat on our flight home I would’ve sat next to Bjork. I switched with a friend who played an Ipad game with her. True story.

Go to this wonderful place.


If you liked this, or want to send me hate anthrax, hit me up on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

− 1 = 2

Top